There’s so much to love about France from the fabulous food to the wonderful wine and much, much more. We asked Danu Seith-Fyr of Perigourmet food tours in Dordogne about her favourite French things…
Savoir-vivre, gastronomy, history
1. Savoir-Vivre, the way of life in France, this encompasses so very much. All of the following 19 reasons in fact. The politeness, especially in the countryside, the greetings of Monsieur/Madame when someone enters the same office or shop as you. The gallantry that still exists.
2. The variety of the French landscapes, and the beautiful countryside. Each department/region has its own delights to offer, the villages, the historic cities, the local food and beverages, all with a distinct flavour of the specific region. Each has a specific character that never fails to delight.
3. Gastronomy and artisan-made produce, of course we are bound to mention this as we run a Gastronomic Tour Company. The local specialities are so varied and so very delicious. Cheese is in a world all of its own. But each area of France has a unique gastronomic signature, so much to explore, so many kilos to gain. The Artisans of France keep local traditions around food well and truly alive – from the local goat farmer with her cheese production down the road, the boulanger, working all hours of the night to the maraichere who grows not just our vegetables but provides us with flowers and vegetables.
4. Accents, these are as varied as the landscapes and always a challenge to the non-French speaker or the novice. Certainly here in the Perigord the accent is so broad that translation is nigh on impossible. French people can distinguish which area in the country a person is from, just from the accent.
5. History and Patrimoine, the ancient abounds here in France and each village and town has its own history written all over it. Nearby is a living museum. Observe and you will see all manner of quirky and interesting details that point to the local history. More and more, I praise the efforts of ordinary French people to save the beautiful architecture and historical buildings. Gardens too, from the elegance of a Chateau’s formal garden to villages recognised for their floral displays.
Markets, culture, cheese
6. The Markets. French markets are famous all over the world and you cannot beat them for stocking up on your weekly groceries and specialty foods, wine, cider and beer too. It is a Sunday morning ritual for us and the meeting of friends is as much a part of it as the errands.
7. Brocantes. Always so interesting to shuffle through each stall, looking for treasure, it’s a pure addiction, I have to say!
8. Wine. As a Winemaker from New Zealand, this is a must. There are so many hidden gems of vineyards, small family enterprises producing fabulous wines for all seasons, in our spare time we ran a small export business taking gorgeous, organic wines from the SW region of France to New Zealand. Degustation is a must.
9. Cheese. Ah, cheese has to have a category all of its own, and it’s one of my downfalls. Have you ever seen the cheese aisles in French supermarkets, let alone all the different regional producers… It’s a little piece of heaven.
10. Culture, the French culture is a strange combination of old world charm and etiquette to a cutting modern edge. We love all her shining aspects.
11. Elegance and Couture. Artisans, Paris and French haute couture still hold an elevated place in the world of fashion, but even on rural streets the French possess an alluring elegance dressed in working clothes. Annoyingly it’s in the blood. Countless ateliers from the couturier to the gantier (glovemaker) continue to thrive, producing items in a fair and equitable manner on home soil, keeping alive the traditions of centuries.
12. French language. Despite being incredibly challenging for a non-native, once you begin to get a handle on it and can translate it’s a beautiful language to hear spoken. Let’s face it, even if you can’t understand a word, it’s still beautiful. In addition, there are curious and entertaining accents, region to region which keep me on my toes.
Joie de vivre, perfume, restaurants
13. Joie de Vivre. There is within the French people a lust for life and a slight hedonistic quality, all for the general good. Especially here in the countryside, important things remain, good food, good friends and good wine!
14. The Art of the Table. This is done especially well here in France and this point links beautifully with the Brocante and Vide Grenier, finding treasures to grace the table, from linens of fabulous quality to services and glassware of a bygone era.
15. Perfume. Ah now, this is my specialty, I am an international fragrance journalist, writing for perfumers from all over the world. In France it’s akin to the ‘Holy Grail’ for me. The world capital in Grasse and the perfumers of Paris, the history and legacy of French perfumery, all on my doorstep.
16. Restaurant Dining. Dining out whether at a restaurant, bistro, cafe or at the home of friends is a French institution. It can take hours, literally. The longest we have spent at a friend’s table was 5 hours, all of that time, dining at a leisurely pace interspersed with fine conversation and wine. We love that the French take their time to enjoy their food and place an importance on the midday meal. Even workers have time for a real break in the middle of the day, often frequenting local restaurants for the menu du jour (- course plus wine) for a very reasonable cost.
17. Road Networks. These are exceptional and only rarely do you encounter traffic jams. They are maintained in good condition and you can get quickly and easily from place to place across the county.
The south of France, cakes and 2CVs!
18. The South of France. I am particularly enamoured with the southern regions of France, from the Pyrenees to the Cote d’Azur, through Gaillac to Provence. The south has a special quality, a light that illuminates like nowhere else. And the people are relaxed and warm.
19. The art of the Patisserie. Irresistible. If you have ever stood in front of the gateaux glass of a Patisserie, you know what I mean.
20. The 2CV. We have to include this iconic beauty, as we use Poppy and Tin Tin, our 2CV’s along with two others to transport our clients on their Gastronomic journey with Perigourmet Tours. It’s a symbol of French chic and freedom, style in city and country and oh so much fun to ride around the French countryside on a hot summer’s day with the top down.
Find out more about Perigourmet and book your perfect gastronomic tour…